A portion of schools’ funding would be made conditional on students remaining in some form of education or training after taking their GCSEs, under new reforms announced by Labour.
The opposition party’s independent skills taskforce has today announced a series of reforms to the 14-19 education system, designed to reduce the number of 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (Neet), which currently stands at 844,000.
The announcement came on the same day that education secretary Michael Gove spoke on the coming of a “second industrial revolution” and the importance of preparing young people for emerging hi-tech sectors.
Under the plans unveiled by Labour’s skills taskforce, an element of school funding made dependent on students remaining in education would be used to “transform careers guidance in those schools with a Neet problem” by creating a national careers advice system alongside employers.
Labour would also create a National Baccalaureate for all school leavers, which would include “rigorous, stretching and labour-market responsive vocational qualifications for the ‘forgotten 50 per cent’ and skills, character building and workplace learning for all”.
It would also be made compulsory for all young people to study English and maths up to the age of 18.
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "David Cameron’s ambivalence to vocational excellence will cost our country dear, prising young people out of the global labour market.
“Reforms must focus on driving up standards in maths and English, strengthening character and resilience and equipping the labour market of the future with the skills set it needs. More of the same just won’t do."
The heads’ unions broadly welcomed the report’s findings, but expressed reservations about imposing financial sanctions on schools.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Tracking destinations is important, but it must be recognised this is influenced by more than what happens in schools. Before financial sanctions on schools are proposed, very serious, looming funding pressures must be addressed. We need to see real progress towards a national, fair funding formula."
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said he was also ”sceptical of the power of financial penalties to drive school performance because penalties may make it harder to correct problems”.
Meanwhile Mr Gove, speaking at the Woking headquarters of Formula 1 racing team McLaren this morning, spoke of the coming of a “new machine age”.
Citing the examples of Google’s driverless car and camera manufacturer Canon’s decision to “fully robotise” its factories, he said: “We are embarking on a second industrial revolution – a new machine age.”
Mr Gove spoke of the need to “end the artificial and damaging division between the academic and the practical – the apartheid at the heart of our education system”.
This could be achieved, he said, by ensuring that “practical, technical and vocational education is integrated with academic learning to make both more compelling for all students in our schools, and more valuable in the new labour market”.